2021 … Island Thoughts and Changes

We’re all living in an island or have been for the past year. I’m thinking about the second shot of Pfizer Vaccine received today and a conversation with a retired client. She’s been “locked down” for the past year and I was surprised by the level of isolation. At the same time, she mentioned several more relatives moving to the area…all from New York. The way we’ve been dealing with Coronavirus is far different in Fernandina, when compared to somewhere more populated, but we’re seeing exposure from tourism. Looking forward to having dinner with friends already vaccinated….I’ve been doing that for the entire year. Wear a mask, use common sense and spend a few dollars with a local business….seemed reasonable. I don’t have underlying conditions and am in my 50’s, but the cost was higher to stay at home, if you average the impact to all Americans.

So much changed in 2020!

Speaking of New York, we have an unprecedented migration of people into Nassau County, FL from Nassau County, NY and other surrounding states. Taxes are lower, cost of living seems lower, the weather is far better, we don’t have estate taxes and we probably have a much higher percentage of immunized vulnerable population. I’ve been watching homes sell in days and multiple competitive offers on a single home. In a normal market, this is an occasional thing. Now, the norm is multiple offers and offers sometimes tens of thousands above list price. It won’t last, but with low inventory and more people pouring into the area, I can’t see a visible reason for an end to the change. Is this based on the pandemic or just an acceleration of something we would see anyway?

An odd “vote by mail only” ballot deadline passed on the 13th. I’m unimpressed with the number of charter changes and wording of several….and the 20% turnout. Hardly representative, I was the only one voting in my household. Three of us tossed the ballot, assuming it was a sample ballot similar to the kind we see in a normal election year and assuming, mistakenly, there would also be voting on Election Day. I hope this is the only time we see a ballot only by mail. Consider a 20% turnout when 100% of the registered voters received a ballot. I also have an concern with words like never, expanding referendums and allowing so many people to request investigations. The last item discussing consistency with state….. I would feel more comfortable simply noting language will be changed for consistency, but the meaning of the charter or items changed will not change. “…and revise certain provisions to be consistent with state law…” Does the word “and” create a separate change and which provisions?

Almost 80% of registered voters failed to fill out a postage paid vote by mail ballot.

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2021 Mail Ballot Election Results: 

Question No. 1
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to change the word “groups” to “seats” to be more clear that City Commissioners do not serve districts but are elected at large for one seat? – APPROVED

Question No. 2
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide that City Commissioners must complete annual performance evaluations for Charter Officers, and that City Commissioners who directly interfere in administrative duties of City employees may be subject to sanctions by the City Commission and forfeiture of their Commission seat after a public hearing? – APPROVED

Question No. 3
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide that a City Commissioner convicted of a felony, is absent from 3 regular meetings in a year or violates the Florida Code of Ethics for Public Officers is suspended from office pending a hearing that can result with the accused Commissioner forfeiting their Commission seat, and that the City Commission fills vacancies on the Commission by appointment? – APPROVED

Question No. 4
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide for a binding election by the voters for Mayor instead of the current non-binding straw ballot election of Mayor and appointment by City Commission? – APPROVED

Question No. 5
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide that the Mayor is responsible for ensuring that City Commissioners complete annual performance evaluations for all Charter Officers (City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk)? 
– APPROVED

Question No. 6
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to allow a City Commissioner suffering from a serious medical condition to use media technology to attend and cast votes at City Commission meetings? – APPROVED

Question No. 7
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide that the City Commission must consider more than one City Manager candidate for hire, that the City Manager must have prior management experience and be a member of a professional organization for city managers, and that the City Manager has 90 days to become a resident of the City after taking the oath of office? – APPROVED

Question No. 8
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to require that the City Attorney be admitted to practice law in all courts of the state and in federal courts, and that it is preferred that the City Attorney be board certified in local government law by the Florida Bar Association? – APPROVED

Question No. 9
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to require referendum approval by the voters in the City before the Police Department could be dissolved? – APPROVED

Question No. 10
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to require referendum approval by the voters in the City before the Fire Department could be dissolved? – APPROVED

Question No. 11
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to require that the City Clerk be a member of a professional clerk’s association, that the City Commission have an employment contract with the City Clerk and that the City Clerk propose a City Clerk pro tem to serve in the absence of the City Clerk? – APPROVED

Question No. 12
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to require that the Comptroller: a) have professional credentials such as Certified Public Accountant; b) be a member of the Florida Government Finance Officers Association; c) propose sound investment policies for the City; and d) schedule an annual financial audit of City accounts by an independent certified public accountant? – APPROVED

Question No. 13
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to prohibit any transfers of money from the Land Conservation Trust Fund to any other City fund and that no funds in the Land Conservation Trust Fund can be appropriated for any purpose other than those set forth in the Fernandina Beach Land Conservation Program? – APPROVED

Question No. 14
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to delete prohibitions on community redevelopment areas (CRA’s) that limit the number to no more than 2 CRA’s in the City and that no CRA can be created with properties valued collectively at more than 2% of the total assessed value of all property in the City? – FAILED

Question No. 15
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide for oath of office language for every City employee, board member and City Commissioner that includes requirements of state law and additional affirmations to abide by the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees? – APPROVED

Question No. 16
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide that Charter Officers and advisory board members as well as City Commissioners have the power to cause any City department or the conduct of any City officer or employee to be investigated in accordance with City procedures? – APPROVED

Question No. 17
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide for a citizen initiative process to introduce new ordinances to the City Commission for approval, and if rejected by the City Commission, the ordinance initiative would go to voters of the City at a referendum election? – APPROVED

Question No. 18
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to provide that the City Charter must be reviewed every 8 years and require the City Commission to appoint a Charter Review Committee made up of City electors to make recommendations for changes to the City Charter? – APPROVED

Question No. 19
Should the Fernandina Beach City Charter be amended to correct errors and describe the City as: The City of Fernandina was first established in 1825, then abolished and reincorporated in 1921 by the Florida Legislature. The Town of Fernandina Beach was established in 1949 by the Florida Legislature. The City of Fernandina and the Town of Fernandina Beach were consolidated as the City of Fernandina Beach on January 1, 1952 after approval by voters? – APPROVED

Question No. 20
Should the City of Fernandina Beach Charter be amended to remove certain provisions that are already covered by state law, clarify certain provisions without changing the meaning by combining sections or moving sections, and revise certain provisions to be consistent with state law? – APPROVED

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2020, Media, Social Media and Elections

Social media placed a thumb on the election scale, in my opinion. Turnout, efforts to get out a vote….perhaps higher percentages of people in certain demographics (political bias) using social media, therefore even blanket geographic ads (messages) will have the same effect as a targeted ad…. Ironic I’m posting this on social media, but you’re either a platform or producer of news. I do not see choosing or creating information as social media’s role. It’s likely too late now, but this was a terrible year. I’m becoming an old &*^%, but I hope a next generation will notice what is happening….in education, government and to our eroding rights. Controlling content is shaping our future….and that should be something we all find appalling.

I think we should all consider how and where we are being influenced. The kind of mass media reach and targeting available is something we never considered in years past. It may be far too late, but consider how advertising is used and targeted. I use this in promotion of real estate or in political campaigns, but what happens when the platforms themselves are potentially creating biased messaging? I have no issue with platforms existing, but the sheer reach for that platform to create an innocuous message can create massive influence. Consider repeated messages asking if I’ve registered. Where and which demographic is this message reaching? Even if it isn’t targeted, the use of social media is more predominant in certain groups, so the message is targeted by being on the platform. Either you’re a platform or a content creator. If social media creates it’s own content, it should follow standards we would expect from other sources and be subject to the same regulation.

My opinion…..during 2020 elections.

Florida, Georgia, Tennessee,Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Home

The idea came to me a few years ago and the timing never worked, until Covid 19 (aka the Wuhan Virus, China Virus, Corona Virus….). Anyway, with a slower than normal year and restrictions on work impacting almost every business, it seemed like a great time to see the country. Back in June, 99% of work was remote or by phone and I really missed very little. My family was not entirely enthusiastic about my plan to see the country by motorcycle, during a pandemic, as a hurricane was moving north and as protests turned violent across the country, but it seemed like a a perfect time to me.

Unloaded for a stop at a friend’s place in Wyoming. This is now my old bike. I’m riding something similar, but better configured in every way. #r1200gs #motorcycle

The pictures below are a few of my favorites. I hope you enjoy and think a little about the time we spent shutdown here in Fernandina. I can say my personal experiences were of towns with very little traffic and nearly empty main streets. Some parts of the country are going to feel 2020 for years and most of us really don’t know the vast impact of a shutdown. As much as we’re criticized for taking too little action or too much action, it was a fine line between public health and economic survival.

Back to a positive note, I met some of the most interesting people and had amazing food along the way. Hotels were almost empty, rates were often below 50% and I was generally treated like a king. One of my initial goals was a trip along part of Route 66. I would recommend paralleling this on 44 or just sampling portions. Closed gas stations and empty stretches make it difficult. I picked it up for a while near St. Louis and then for parts near Santa Fe on the way home. We really do have an incredible country and traveling with only a few stops on the plan is actually much easier on a bike.

The Hillbilly BarBQ burger in Missouri. Best ever…sweet potato fries and a local draft.
I’d need to look for the name of this town, but I passed through town after town like this with no likely recovery coming.
Wyoming looked like this one day and then completely covered by snow the following day. (JUNE!)
15 or 20 minutes from a friend’s place. He has a barn and uses the very short season to explore. A little over 10,500 feet and you really do notice the 20 or 30 degree changes, sometimes just going through a pass.
Colorado near Denver, I think. Fantastic roads and often no place to stop and admire scenery. The scale of things was so different. I waited to take a shot with the trailer.
Somewhere in Kansas or Oklahoma near windmills far larger than you think when a mile or two away.
Moose in Wyoming
Smallest coffee shop and very good.
Best stop ever in Santa Fe at an incredibly clean inn. I began the trip with a back injury….then discovered everything travel related was so inexpensive during Corona…and the hot shower was necessary.
Buffalo were in part of this shot, but no zoom lens.
Sun to snow in minutes, the horses seemed to like the change.
Dolina in Santa Fe, a place I just randomly found and one of the best breakfast places anywhere. I sat outside, well, because I thought I fit the outside better than the inside…after several thousand miles.
Dolina Bakery in Santa Fe, eggs over tomato sauce with giant garlic and pesto, I think.

Beaches Close at 5:00PM 3/21

Busy is normally very good for a Florida beach town, unless people are congregating during a pandemic. As unlikely as it would seem, some areas on the local beach were just as crowded as you might expect on any other spring weekend, even though all bars and restaurants were closed for everything except takeout. Many tags were not local.

Main Beach earlier today and a view along Ocean Avenue shows just how busy we were at an unlikely time.

Buying Inexpert “Expert” Content

Sometimes sales calls are mundane and sometimes the person on the other end won’t stop talking. I should say, they won’t stop talking long enough to listen. Social media and connection to clients is largely pointless if you’re paying an unlicensed person to create the content, then sharing that content across “DOZENS” of other sites…often your direct competition in the same market. Earlier today, someone made an unsolicited call offering to manage my social media accounts. In the next breath, he told me there were hundreds of agents using the system. He wasn’t licensed….and has no local experience in this market. Beyond the lack of connection, the point of using social media, his offer would likely damage my credibility and reputation by creating a lower quality of content, while disconnecting me from connected clients. Seriously?!? I said no politely…three times. Then finally laughed and finally disconnected.

Having something to add to the conversation means a lot and knowledge means a lot. I tend to focus on a handful of clients and listings. Unlike many larger offices, I know every client. I’m the broker, but I’m also the one writing the contract, attending an inspection, attending the closing, creating a spreadsheet and double checking the estimates for closing. I order the surveys, coordinate with a closing agent, type my own contracts, answer my own emails and, yes, I write and reply to promotions on social media.

Why choose to work with me or a smaller office? Well, spreading responsibility across various people can work, but coordinating those people, hoping nothing gets in the way of that coordination, hoping each one does what they’re expected to do at the right time….that isn’t easy. It also adds expense and can mean the weakest part of that chain has an impact on the rest of the process. Do larger offices sell more property. Sure. Asking about total volume is like asking if big cars use more fuel than smaller cars.

The real questions should center on time spent with a listing, who answers the phone, who sets up showings, what happens when an offer is presented and is the most experienced person always available to reply to a phone call or message. Who creates the content and is that person experienced enough to offer value. The image below is something I personally shot. Does it matter if I’m the one using the drone, attending the showing, writing the contract, answering the phone, scheduling your showing or creating a post on social media? I think it does matter. Real estate commissions can be substantial. I hope to bring personal experience, not just canned advertising spam …someone actually tried to sell me a few hours ago.

Shot earlier in the year, does it matter if your broker is taking the shot, writing the contract, answering his or her phone and personally involved in every step of the transaction?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We don’t have snow or a white Christmas, but we do have days like today, 70’s and not a cloud in sight, and lighted streets at night, along with some of the best food in Florida.

May you have a Merry Christmas and may the New Year bring good fortune to you in all things.

Waterfront Plans, Developments and Future

I don’t like wasting words. I take that back…I do enjoy this blog and there are times when this feels like the best way to put thoughts into the virtual world. Yesterday, I spent some time taking update pictures of the City of Fernandina Beach Marina. Looking at the view from above, this really is the most under-appreciated and underused asset in the city. Finishing this project and, also, controlling the impact is could have on the CoFB as a whole is pretty important.

City Marina on November 21, 2019

Considering the direction things are going or have gone in recent commission meetings, don’t we have enough plans to move forward with a logical improvement of the waterfront. Sometimes planning again is a waste of money. We should be focused on finishing pieces of the areas surrounding the water, if not the actual waterfront. Think about finishing projects, not dreaming of new projects.

Simmons Road Park…..now that would be an entirely new discussion. Funding changed and we are already increasing the tax burden on residents with environmental land purchases and the third or fourth set of waterfront studies/plans? While I love the idea of serving every citizen in the city, we also tend to build facilities or expand “NEW” areas with the misguided belief we have somehow found money in the recreational impact fee magic money tree. It might be popular to vote to build something, but paying the maintenance associated with every single structure makes that decision something the taxpayer is burdened with forever. We need some common sense and, lacking common sense, at least be willing to ask the right questions. Do we have money in the budget or are we just planning to increase the tax rate? Are we planning for future maintenance costs? Do taxpayers support the decision and are they willing to pay the real cost? Are we spending city tax dollars to serve city residents? Are we prioritizing decisions logically?

A1A and 95 and Completion Summer of 2020

The profound changes coming after completion of this project will be felt on Amelia, not during construction, but after construction as homes are completed and access to the best area beaches is suddenly easier to reach. Consider the rooftops coming in and in the vicinity of Wildlight. Consider where those new residents will choose to visit and which beaches are most convenient. Free parking, restaurants and the time to reach a resource mean Fernandina and Amelia Island should see record levels in 2020.

Looking toward Amelia Island from A1A and I-95

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began construction in January 2017 on the area’s first Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) at Interstate 95 in Nassau County. 
This project consists of widening the roadway from 4 lanes to 6 lanes with raised medians, curb & gutter, sidewalks and bicycle lanes (2 miles). This project will also include the addition of a new Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI)* under I-95 at A1A Exit 373 (to Callahan/Yulee/Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island). The project began construction in January, 2017, and is expected to be completed by summer 2020.

FDOT, www.nflroads.com June 10, 2019